A.A. Bondy began to steadily make waves with critics after the release of his debut American Hearts. A short while later, he is releasing When the Devil’s Loose on Fat Possum Records. It’s a record that lives up to the expectation of the record’s title, but in the most stripped down fashion that could only accompany A. A. Bondy.
Just when you think your music player is broken, the soft-spoken strumming of “Mightiest of Guns” comes into play through your speakers. Bondy seems to whisper just as quietly into the microphone, his soothing voice calmly uttering at those lowly decibels. Such an approach is utilized throughout the remainder of the album, to various effects.
“When the Devil’s Loose” begins, you can hear the meandering accompaniment of low-lying drums and various guitar chords that one finds on a M. Ward song. It easily could be seen as knocking off another great, but the story telling of Bondy is what seems to differentiate his songwriting from that of Matt Ward. He seems deeply rooted in the history of Southern storytelling, and in doing such, he tells his tales with the passion of an overly involved narrator. Even during “Oh the Vampyre,” which seems to be sort of a childish ditty, there is an element of struggle, not only in the lyrics, but in the vocals.
Midway through arrives the standout track “I Can See the Pines are Dancing.” One of the more intriguing things about this song is the baritone voice echoing in the background of the song. It works well with Bondy’s silky cum gruff vocals. It’s this sort of touch to an otherwise simplistic approach that manages to grab A.A. Bondy from the relatively mundane world of folk/Americana/etc and push him even further than some of his peers.
Listening to songs like “False River,” the album’s seventh track, you can still see these little flourishes and intricate details, and one can only assume that more will unfold as repeated listens come to be. Walking to the end of this album, you never seem to hear the same thing twice; this is an attribute many people ascribe to great records. However, the pacing of the album is painstakingly slow, and while some will find this aspect appealing, it’s difficult to reach the end of the album as a whole due to the distinctive style and relatively static vocals. While those may seem to some as desperately critical aspects, rest assured that beneath the folds of every tune on here lies a secret waiting for each and every listener. All due to the hard work of A.A. Bondy on When the Devil’s Loose.
Download: A.A. Bondy – I Can See the Pines are Dancing [MP3]